Top Ten Tuesday

10 Five-Star Predictions (Part 1)

Thursday, July 18, 2019

I've been seeing videos showcasing readers' five-star predictions around Youtube and thought I'd predict some of my next five-star reads. When I first was compiling this list, I didn't want to pick all the books I'm excited for and just share them with you. I'm excited for tons of books that probably won't be five-stars, let's be honest.

I am super picky when doling out five stars. So far this year, I have read a total of 81 books and only 11 of them have been five stars. ONLY 11. So, I don't want to "fail" with this list-- like, what if I rate none of these books five stars? Yikes. When deciding what books to add to the list, I took a look at all my five-star reads for the last two years (2017 and 2018). I came to some cursory conclusions:

  • There were 38 five-star reads during those two years.
  • I tend to rate fantasy higher than any other genre I read. The next genre in my five-star lineup is contemporary (fantasy and contemporary are the genres I primarily read).
  • A sequel is more likely to get five stars than a series-starter.
  • If I've read from the author before, I'm more likely to rate their next books higher than the first book I read from them.
Knowing some of that, I still didn't want to fill an entire list with sequels so I took what I know from my reading tastes and came up with 10 books I hope will be five-star reads. In part 2 of this post, I'll let you know if I'm right and my thoughts on each one. Wish me luck with these!

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor: Putting the hype aside for a moment, this book has so much going for it. An MC who is a librarian. Dreams that protray another world. A lost city that possibly wants to be found. It has lots of potential to be an amazing read!

Enchantee by Gita Trelease: It's set in Paris and there's magic. That's two of my favorite things so already adding ingredients that will surely make it a five-star.

Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody: This one is a gritty, dark fantasy set in a casino. Enne's mother has gone missing and it's up to Enne to follow the clues, discover family secrets, and find her mom before it's too late. Sounds fantastic to me!

Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith: I adore books that travel abroad. Hugo is set on taking a train trip across America but plans fell through with his now ex-girlfriend. Hugo ends up giving the extra ticket to Mae, a total stranger and aspiring filmmaker. And you know what's going to happen. Romance! I love filmmaking in books; I love traveling! And I've read and liked Jennifer E. Smith's previous books before. I hope that means this book will be five stars! 

Only a Breath Apart by Katie McGarry: I haven't read a book by McGarry in a long time but the previous book I read from her, Pushing the Limits, was a five star for me so high hopes for this one. It's a contemporary romance with a sprinkling of magic.

Prince Charming by Rachel Hawkins: One of my top favorite things in books is when a royal falls for the average person. I know these types of books tend to be over the top and bit unrealistic but I can't help but swoon every time. 

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell: There's magic and time travel; need I say more? 

A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer: This book hasn't even released yet and I'm already thinking it'll be five stars from me. It releases January 7th of next year but considering the first book, A Curse So Dark and Lonely, is my top book of this year, I bet this sequel will be in my top ten of next year!

The Diviners by Libba Bray: Libba Bray is one of my favorite authors and I've almost rated everything by her five stars so The Diviners, no matter what it's about, should be a five star as well, right?

The Wickerlight by Mary Watson: I read The Wren Hunt when it came out last year and immediately fell in love with it. The Wickerlight is a companion novel that is set in the same world as The Wren Hunt and as much as it's not a direct sequel and doesn't follow the same main character, I still think this book could be five stars just based on the world building and Watson's magic alone.

What are some of your 5-star predictions? Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?

Top Ten Tuesday

Top 10 Auto-Buy Authors

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

I have so many favorite authors. Yet, I have fewer auto-buy authors. Sitting down and figuring out my top ten auto-buy authors was a struggle, considering I barely had that many to fill the list. I'm picky on what I'll auto-buy. I rarely read the synopsis of books and I've gotten quite good at what I'll love and won't. However, with auto-buy authors, their books I pick up and trust the author so thoroughly that I won't know a thing about it except it's already in my cart to purchase, usually before the book even releases.

The book pictured is the book that started my auto-buy journey with that specific author. Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is: Top 10 Auto-Buy Authors:

Sandhya Menon: I adored When Dimple Met Rishi when I listened to the audiobook last year. So much so that every book she has written, thus far, I just had to gobble up.

Libba Bray: It may have started with her historical fantasy series, the Gemma Doyle trilogy, but after Going Bovine, I was hooked on Libba Bray everything. I still haven't read The Diviners but I know I'm going to love it!

Kasie West: Kasie West is my summer queen. She writes cute romances that are so fluffy, they always make me swoon. Her newest just released last week and I can't wait to devour it.

Amy Plum: If a book is set in Paris, I will be reading it. And usually, also loving it too. Plum wowed me with her unique take on zombies in her debut series. So when she came out with a dystopian series, I promptly bought all the books. Her latest series, Dreamfall, that I just completed is about nightmares-- I definitely recommend if you're looking for something spooky.

Maurene Goo: Maurene Goo gets me for the nostalgic factor. Her books are super cute, sometimes simple, and incredibly ridiculous, and I love them all! I spent a year in South Korea and whenever I read one of Goo's books, it always brings back those memories.

Anna Godbersen: Godbersen writes historical fiction with a Gossip Girl flare. And for the most part, that's the only way I can read historical fiction. If it's drenched in drama and Godbersen wrote it, you can bet that I'll have the book on my tbr.

Renee Ahdieh: Her writing is so flowery and magical. Her books are sometimes slow but always amazing. I can't wait for her newest book to release; Ahdieh is bringing vampires back into the spotlight with The Beautiful.

Cassandra Clare: Isn't this everyone's auto-buy author? The Mortal Instruments was a good series. The Infernal Devices was fantastic! And I still haven't started the next series but I hear it's even better than anything she's done before. Even though these books follow the same formula and are filled with tropes and cliches, they're just so entertaining, I can't stop reading.

Rosamund Hodge: I love retellings and Hodge has a way of taking a tale and turning it upside down. That's exactly what she did with Beauty and the Beast, turning it into Cruel Beauty- taking the dark, horrifying parts and adding demons. Hodge's imagination paired with her gorgeous writing envelopes readers into a whole new world. I can't wait to read more from her.

Laurie Faria Stolarz: I actually bought the box set of Blue is for Nightmares on a gamble. I hadn't read anything by Stolarz at that point but the series sounded so good and the box set was on sale so why not. And that was the first of many books I read from Stolarz-- and even though it's been over a decade, she's still one of my top auto-buy authors.

Who are your auto-buy authors?

book review

Whimsical, Dramatic, and Downright Amazing | Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Friday, July 12, 2019

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: 5/7/19
Pages: 337
Source: purchased
The history books say I died. They don’t know the half of it. Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them, and he’s hunted Romanov before. Nastya’s only chances of saving herself and her family are to either release the spell and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya has only dabbled in magic, but it doesn’t frighten her half as much as her growing attraction to Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her. That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.
The Romanovs are in exile, forced out of their castle and into hiding. Nastya hopes one day soon, they will escape to live near the countryside in peace. However, hope is dwindling. The family is running out of the medicine in which to relieve Alexei’s pain. Ever since magic was banned, it’s been difficult to get a hold of. Nastya tries her best to be there for her family, even when their world is turned inside out. Nadine Brandes crafted such a gorgeous, magical retelling of Anastasia that is sure to become your next favorite.

  • Nastya is a strong willed, incredible character. Romanov is told in first person perspective which lets readers in on Nastya’s inner thoughts and feelings. She’s adventurous which is shown through the amount of mischief she is able to get into even during exile. The setting of Romanov primarily takes place while the royal family is cooped up in a house together. Nastya’s mischief and little games are able to lighten the mood at times. Romanov, however, is a heavy novel.
  • I always tell myself that I need to read more fantasy because every time I do, the book turns out to be fantastic. Romanov is no exception. It wasn’t exactly what I expected. The book tells the story of the Romanov family as it was in actual history with a hint of magic. If you’re looking for a retelling of Anastasia, the animated film—with the quest of a lost grandmother, a romance between a princess and a kitchen boy, and an evil master of the magical arts—Romanov is not that book.
anastasia GIF
  • This is the first book I've read by Brandes. You can bet I will be reading Fawkes, her other book, soon. Her writing is whimsical, dramatic, and downright amazing. She morphed the story of the Romanov family from history and turned it into something unique. It was a masterful take on the story.
  • Romanov is so compelling. It wasn’t a page in and I was already hooked, demanding to know how Nastya was going to get out of this mess she found herself in. However, I must admit that the plot doesn’t progress much. It relies on routine and small moments of Nastya’s life to carry the story forward. This is more of a character-driven plot than an action-packed one. And as much as I love my action-packed plots, Romanov is a story filled with magic, secrets, and spies that is still able to keep readers on their toes. Despite the plot being a bit slow, it was slow in the best way possible. 
  • The Romanov family are incredibly close. Their family dynamic remained a light in the darkness. When all seemed lost, they could still look to each other for hope. It was great to see one character lift up the others and vice versa. Nastya has several sisters and one brother. Brandes only gives us small glimpses of the older sisters, while the brother, Alexei, and the younger sister, Maria, are more prominent in the story. Also, the bond Nastya shares with her father is so sweet. Familial relations like this are rarely seen in YA today so I definitely cherished those moments in Romanov
  • Maria needs a spinoff. Her romance was so riveting and enchanting. And as much as I loved Nastya and her strategic mind, I wouldn't mind if Brandes gives us more on what Maria was thinking during her time in exile. 
  • Since the family was in exile, there were several guards that watched them around the clock. My favorite, of course, was Zash. I only wished we got more of his thoughts as well. His story was intriguing, as he seemed to be at war with himself for most of the book. Brandes explored some fantastic feelings, tackling Stockholm Syndrome and even the captors becoming sympathetic to their prisoners. The dynamic was complex and seemed to increase the stakes tenfold. 
  • The stakes are high in Romanov. The royal family is put under arrest, essentially in exile, where just the act of breathing too loudly is an indiscretion. The pace may be slow but the high stakes and terrifying ante is sure to get readers’ blood pumping.
  • The light use of magic was great. I adore magic in books but it doesn’t always need to be a magic boarding school, complete with magic wands every time. Romanov delivered a small dose of magic, giving us just enough to take Brandes’ world to the next level. It was truly superb!
Overall, Romanov by Nadine Brandes was heavy, yet beautiful. Brandes weaves history with magic that brings a compelling story to light. It was masterfully written and I can’t wait to read more from her in the future.

Tackling my TBR

Tackling My TBR: July 2019

Monday, July 08, 2019

Tackling My TBR is a monthly post, where I share my reading plans for the upcoming month. The concept of a TBR Jar is not a new one. I’ve seen it used in various ways throughout the bookish community. My jar will be a little different. The goal is to read the older books on my to-read pile. Thus, instead of putting individual book titles on a small sheet of paper to place in the jar, I wrote a month and a year on each. Each month, I intend to pull three sheets of paper from my jar which will dictate which three books I will read. The dates on the paper correspond with the date I added those books to my Goodreads account. Some months will have over 20 books to choose from, when others may have only one. From Goodreads, I’ll choose the three books from the three different monthly hauls. And if I cannot complete the book within the month, it will be unhauled (with the exception of one pass each month).

In June, I tackled books from my October 2011, June 2016, and October 2017 book hauls. It sure was a busy month. I was so excited to pick up Vampire Knight vol. 12 by Matsuri Hino. It’s a manga series I adored during high school and never finished. After completing that volume, I decided to devour several more volumes. Hopefully, I can finish the entire series this year. Since I was a bit busy with work, I didn’t get around to watching or reading Outlander. I’m up to Drums of Autumn but I won’t be reading that until I finish watching season 3 of the show. Maybe after binge watching Stranger Things, I’ll get to Outlander. And I was able to read Last Breath by Rachel Caine which may be the best Morganville Vampire book yet! I’m definitely on track to finish this series this year—maybe I’ll read the next book this month.

From the jar, I picked November 2017, April 2018, and March 2018 book hauls. From there, I chose the following books:

Hidden by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast: This is book 10 of the House of Night series and I’m just wondering when these books will ever end? I adore checking in on my favorite characters but the plot itself seems to repeat every book or so. I’m going into this with low expectations and hopefully, Hidden will have some fresh new storyline for the cast of characters to tackle.

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier: My friend gifted this book to me awhile ago and I still haven’t read it. It’s about time! However, the book is a bit daunting with its length and it being high fantasy but I’m going to give it a go.

Laguna Cove by Alyson Noel: I own almost every book Noel has ever written. Her writing is so easy to read, always filled with drama, and just plain fun. I’ve noticed that most of her older contemporaries don’t hold up against the test of time. However, maybe Laguna Cove will surprise me.

What are you planning on reading this month?

kickin' it

Kickin' It: June 2019 Wrap Up

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Kickin’ It is a feature at The Bucket List where I round-up the whole month in one post, bringing you reviews you may have missed, other awesome bookish things, and even what I’m currently obsessed with in other media besides books. June was a whirlwind. Summer is officially here and with it, the sweaty temperatures and sunny temperaments. Ever notice that people are happier when the weather is nice. It’s great! Plus, all this sunshine is doing great things to my reading. Quantity-wise, at least. Quality-wise, I’ve been struck by the 3-star monster and don’t know how to get rid of him. Overall, the month was a good one. I was able to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, while reading loads of books I’ve been meaning to get to. Here’s what I read in June:

Romanov by Nadine Brandes (4.5 stars): Wow, this one was good! It was a bit slow pace. Plus, it wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be, following more closely to actual Romanov history than Anastasia the animated movie. Yet, it was magnificent: beautifully crafted, wonderful story with the perfect amount of magic!

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith (3 stars): This was good but not great. It had many awesome elements to it: a relationship via email, a celebrity falling for a non-celebrity, and great small town vibes. It was just a bit too long and not long enough, if that makes sense.

A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab (5 stars): Why did this take me so long to read? I took me weeks to finish this. I was savoring every moment. I know I still need to read the prequel comic but the original trilogy is over and it’s devastating. I’m hoping Schwab will return with more since the ending was left open for more. A reader can dream, right?!

Listen to Your Heart by Kasie West (4 stars): I was worried since the last two books I’ve read by Kasie West have just been okay. However, Listen to Your Heart turned out great! It was such a cute summer read!

Last Breath by Rachel Caine (4 stars): I’ve been slowly making my way through the Morganville Vampire series. I hope to finish the series by the end of the year. This is the 11th book and it was a good one. Despite finding them a tad repetitive at this point, Last Breath did something I did not expect. I can’t wait to read the next book to see what happens next!

My Lady’s Choosing by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris (3.5 stars): Oh, this one was so much fun! It’s a historical romance choose-your-own-adventure book. I haven’t read the entire book but I’ve read up to 5 different scenarios. I’m not sure how many stories are in the book, considering your jumping pages all over. Despite the stories being a bit ridiculous, every story pulls from a different sub-genre so you never know what you’re going to get. Serious nonstop fun!

Vampire Knight vol. 12 (3 stars) | Vampire Knight vol. 13 (3.5 stars) | Vampire Knight vol. 14 (3 stars) by Matsuri Hino: I started this series back in grade school and recently realized that I never finished it. I own up to vol. 14 so from here on out I’ll have to purchase the rest. However, even though the art is as amazing as I remember, the story is all over the place.

All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover (5 stars): Wow! I don’t know why it took me this long to read this but I’m so glad I finally picked it up. This is the second book I’ve read from Colleen Hoover and most definitely not my last. Amazing!

Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle (2.5 stars): Meh. I really don’t know what to say. This had all the things going for it: filmmaking, romance, a lovely beach setting. Yet, the main character was rather annoying and both love interests felt very one-dimensional. There needed to be more and there just wasn’t.

You Are Here by Jennifer E. Smith (3 stars): I used to love road trip books but the older I get, the more I grow out of them, I suppose. This one was okay. I was expecting more of a romance rather than a self-discovery plot. I did find some new places to put on my own travel bucket list which is always fun.

Love the One You’re With by Emily Giffin (2 stars): I’ve owned this ever since I read and loved Something Borrowed. Yet, this one was just awful. The plot revolves around a woman who flirts with the idea of cheating on her husband with the one who got away. Ugh, if I had known what it was about beforehand, I wouldn’t have picked it up. The woman continuously tries to justify her cheating and just nope. The only reason it got a 2-star instead of a 1 was because Giffin’s writing is always so readable and fast-paced.

The Fandom by Anna Day (3 stars): I thought this was going to be a 5-star for me. The Fandom follows a group of friends who are transported to their favorite fandom while at a fan convention. From there, they accidentally murder the main character of the series which changes the story completely and makes the group center stage. The concept was top notch but the execution was just okay. 

Maybe This Time by Kasie West (7/9/19): Sophie, the local florist, is required to be at her clients’ events. So is Andrew, the chef’s son. Even though they both been in each other’s way, they are only just noticing one another. Another cute read from Kasie West that I will not miss!

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim (7/9/19): Mulan meets Project Runway. I am here for it! The cover is gorgeous; the synopsis is great! I have such high hopes for this.

Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud (7/30/19): Zora is stoked to take part in this prestigious summer program. But when an actual prince, Owen, invites her to be his plus one at his brother’s wedding, she is anything but prepared. This is a definite summer read!

June wasn’t the month of watching. However, I was able to catch a showing of Rocketman, a sort-of bio pic musical of Elton John. It was a good movie and Taron Egerton killed it. What else did he kill—quite literally he killed Robin Hood which was a terrible movie that was all over the place. Also, I went to see Men in Black: International and as much as I miss Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, this one brought in a new cast with the same nostalgic magic from the previous films. On TV, I watched some of those Netflix movies I’ve been meaning to including Murder Mystery and Always Be My Maybe. Both were pretty ridiculous but very entertaining. Overall, it was a fine media month.

keanu reeves whatever GIF

How was your June? Did you read any amazing books? Did you watch any fantastic shows/movies?